Wednesday, 15 February 2017

The 'Signing' of the Magna Carta

So here we are, new post!

So the news this week has been coloured in History with Democracy Day and the Jew Freddie Knoller who was offered a job by the Nazis. What did catch my eye in the news and it made me feel like screaming was the news of the Royal Mint's new £2 coin depicting King John signing the Magna Carta in 1215.

Magna Carta 1215

First I'll explain myself why this news terrified me. King John DID NOT sign the Magna Carta. As with most royals in the 13th Century, King John did not hold a quill and put pen to paper with important documents such as this. They stamped their royal seal on the document with hot wax.

This is why I thought that for this blog post it would be interesting to cover the subject of King John and Magna Carta. My first interest in this subject developed in my second year of University whereby I had to take up the subject of Medieval England (it also helped having a hall mate on the same course who was in love with King John....) Most probably remember King John as that funny Lion character who called for his mummy and sucked his thumb out of Disney's Robin Hood.
The real King John wasn't far off the mark really.
In my opinion, King John has certainly been one of our worst kings to date alongside Richard I and mad King George III just to name a couple.

King John or John Lackland as he was known by some (1167-1216) was the youngest of three. His brothers were the Lionheart Richard I, William Longespee (3rd Earl of Salisbury) and Geoffrey Plantagenet. His sister was Matilde Plantagenet. It has become very difficult to talk about King John without comparing him to those around him. for example, let's take Richard I the Lionheart. as the name Lionheart suggests Richard is remembered for great things such as the Crusades, in particular the Third Crusade and the battle for Jerusalem with Saladin. Many would perhaps see Richard as a great King (although I would argue against this). This is because, unlike his brother Richard, John was responsible for losing vast amounts of territory (earning him the name 'Lackland'. However this is not all that he is remembered for. We must also include the fact that he spent copious amounts of money leaving England in a great deal of debt. These were just a few things that led the barons of England to force John's hand in 'signing' the Magna Carta. It was the first for the barons in asserting control of their monarch and the signing of the charter at Runnymede was also the foundation of our modern day Houses of Parliament.

Monday, 19 January 2015

The Curse of the Hope Diamond

I thought I'd start this blog off with something unusual and this has always intrigued me.

I have to point out that I only came across the history of this gem after watching Titanic. The necklace worn by Rose looked remarkably like the Hope Diamond, but there is historical evidence to suggest that the Hope Diamond was not on the Titanic when it sank and therefore the diamond did not cause the sinking as some had previously suggested.

Personally, I am not a big believer in curses, but this diamond has brought so much bad luck to, not only its owners, but anyone who touched it. 

It wasn't called the Hope Diamond until it fell into the hands of the Hope family in 1839. 
It has been known by many other names including, Tavernier's Diamond (115 carats), The French Blue Diamond (69 carats) Francillon's Diamond (45 carats) and it's now name - The Hope Diamond. Throughout this blog I will refer to it as the Hope Diamond. 

This is the current size of the diamond. 
However, three centuries earlier it was at least double this size. Around 112 3/16 carat. 

The history of the Hope Diamond really begins in the Kollur mine in India. It was here that the diamond was mined, but then stolen from the forehead of an idol (the goddess Sita). It's is said to have been the eye of the statue. It was stolen by a man named Jean- Baptiste Tavernier (A diamond merchant). Tavernier becomes the first to fall victim to the diamond's supposed curse after being torn apart by wild dogs when on a trip to Russia after selling the Hope Diamond back in France to Louis XIV (The Sun King)

In 1673, Louis had the diamond re-cut to enhance its brilliance and smaller diamonds were added and it was named the Blue Diamond of the Crown. The new re-cut size was 67 1/8 carat. It was worn by Louis on a ribbon around his neck. 
Louis XV wanted to create a decoration for the Order of the Golden Fleece and added a ruby with the Diamond making it rather ornate and large. 

The Diamond was then passed onto Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, who as you may or may not know, perished by getting their heads chopped off by guillotine during the French Revolution or to be more specific the 'Reign of Terror'.The diamond was handed over to the government when the two were making an attempt to flee France (and got caught!) 

Personally, I think we need to question if this was the work of the Hope Diamond or merely the extravagance of the royalty. Honestly, they were very good at suppressing the poor peasants of France. In 1792, the diamond was stolen during a week long looting of the crown jewels. 

By 1812, the Hope Diamond weighed (if we count 4 grains being equal to 1 carat) around 44 carats or 177 grains. 

The next reported ownership of the diamond was by our own King George IV. The curse of the Hope Diamond left our King George deep in debt on his death in 1830 and as a result it is reported that to the settle these huge debts, the diamond was sold through private channels. 

There is no record of when the diamond sold or how much it was sold for or even whom sold the diamond, however, we do know, that it's next reported owner was in the 1839 entry of the gem collection catalogue of the well-known Henry Philip Hope. Hope was a wealthy London Banker and it is from this man that the diamond takes it's name. 

The Hope family was said to be seriously tainted by the 'curse' of the Hope Diamond, the legend states that the Hope Diamond caused the Hopes to go from being once a rich family to being heavily in debt. As he died without issue, his estates passed to his three nephews. however, the diamond went to the eldest of the three, Henry Thomas Hope, on his death in 1862, it passed to his widow and then to Lord Francis Hope, her grandson. 
Due to his gambling habits as well as high spending, Francis petitioned court twice to sell the diamond to pay his debts. however, his siblings were reluctant to sell the diamond and he was refused on both occasions due to the fact that he was only given access to the life interest on his grandmother's estate. It was not until 1901 when he appealed to the House of Lords that he was finally granted permission to sell the diamond. 

In the case of the Hopes, I seriously doubt that the curse was the reason for the Hopes bankruptcy. it is far more likely that the gambling by Francis Hope is what caused the bankruptcy rather than the diamond as three generations of Hopes were untouched by the 'curse' of the diamond. 

An American jeweller Simon Frankel was the next to own the diamond in 1901 leading the Diamond to the USA. Since Simon Frankel's ownership in 1901, the diamond changed hands several times until it was purchased by Pierre Cartier. Cartier believed he had found a buyer in Evalyn Maclean, He did intrigue her with it's negative history and she emphasised that objects with bad luck usually turned to good luck for her. She had first seen the diamond in 1910 when on a trip to Paris but did not purchase it because she disliked it's current mounting.

However, when the diamond was brought to the USA, she was asked to keep it for the weekend in the hopes she would grow attached to it and she did. She bought the Hope Diamond. She wore the diamond all the time and one story suggested that it was a struggle for the doctor to get Maclean to remove the diamond for an operation. 

Though it was worn by her as a good luck charm, there are many who saw it s curse on her family. 
Her nine year old son died in a car crash and another major loss occurred when her 25 year old daughter committed suicide and her husband was declared insane and committed to a mental institution until his death in 1941. 
This does seem like a lot for one person to suffer through and it provides good evidence to suggest a workings of a curse, but it is hard to say if it really was the curse of the diamond. In order to settle the debts of her estate, her jewellery was sold two years after her death. 

When the diamond went on sale in 1949, it was bought by Harry Winston, a jeweller from New York, It was offered in balls and charity occasions to help raise money. Some believed that Winston wanted to sell the diamond to rid himself of the curse, however, he really donated the diamond because he had long believed in creating a national jewel collection. 

The Diamond was donated to the Smithsonian in Washington DC in 1958 by Harry Winston. On November 10, 1958, the Hope diamond travelled in a plain brown box, by registered mail, and was met by a large group of people at the Smithsonian who celebrated its arrival.

The Hope diamond is currently on display as part of the National Gem and Mineral Collection in the National Museum of Natural History for all to see.

Harry Winston

Hope you all enjoyed my first blog. I am open to suggestions if anyone wants me to cover anything specific in the next blog too. Happy reading! 

Thursday, 18 September 2014

The Importance of History

Here it is...It's my first Historical Blog!

In 2012, I graduated from the University of Wales Trinity Saint David in Lampeter, Carmarthenshire with a 2:1 in Single Honours History and I am now in the process of completing my PGCE to become a fully qualified teacher in the lifelong learning sector. For those of you who don't know, this means working with students who attend College rather than school.

So these days I don't get much time to myself to delve in the world of historical writing. I miss having the time to sit down and write a historical article or even sit down and read a History book. My collection of History books have been getting larger and larger and so has my reading list.

One of the first things I always ask my A-level History students is 'Why is History important?"
This comes from one of the first classes I had taken during my degree. The subject was 'Knights and Castles' taught by an Archaeology lecturer. The History department at my university was merged with two other subjects with the understanding that they are all interlinked. It was the Department of Archaeology, History and Anthropology. Every student has their own reason as to why their subject is important and so did this lecturer. With a combination of these students in her class, she proceeded to upset one - third of them by declaring that History does not matter as much as archaeology. History is meaningless and cannot survive without the archaeological evidence.

That may have been her opinion but this is mine: